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Labour Love - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Paul Gallagher Published

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Following his introduction in the last issue, Paul Gallagher now gives us a candid rundown on the trials and tribulations of converting into large format camera work and the attendant processing. It acts as a wonderful foil to the frantic pace of the RAW workflow discussion in the earlier part of the magazine - it makes one quite nostalgic really!

When I eventually made the decision to move up a format from 6x7cm and leave my Mamiya RB for the Walker Titan XL, it was difficult to envisage how much all the peripheral gear would cost. Firstly I was now the proud owner of a beautiful, hand-made, large-format camera, a standard, 150mm Schneider lens, focusing loupe and cloth but that was about it. I was used to the versatility of having a standard lens and a wider Sekor 50mm f4.5 lens on the Mamiya, about as wide as I would normally wish to go. I was also used to heading into Scotland, miles from anywhere, with tens of rolls of Ilford Delta 100 and a few rolls of Delta 400. In a day, it was not unusual for me to shoot 40 to 50 frames. With 5x4 things were not going to be quite as straightforward.Paul Gallagher

Dark Slides

I transformed myself into an avid Ebay-searcher, with the large-format photography section saved, as a shortcut on my computer. The film holders were not the financial shock I had expected - it is easy to pick up a good quality, double film holder, such as the Fidelity Elite, for as little as £5. The one bonus I did notice at this stage was that the massive surge of people towards digital had generated a healthy quantity of film gear for sale. On this type of auction site this means the bids are 'diluted' slightly, which, in turn, means you can get a bargain. I eventually made a rough calculation of time to set up the camera and the photo opportunities it would allow in a day and decided on 20 film holders, in total. Now I had my film holders, all I had to do was load them with film and get out there, shooting to my daily limit of 40 sheets.

Lenses

Then I turned my attention to lenses and found, once again, that Ebay and its large-format section to be the best bet. I bought a spectacularly clean Schneider Super Angulon 90mm f8 for £240. This offered me the equivalent field of view that I was used to when shooting in medium format and the versatility I was anticipating from camera movements.

Film

When I was considering film some of my photographer friends suggested that I could now afford to move to a faster emulsion and use 400 ASA instead of my usual 100 ASA. This was a view that I could not entirely agree with. After all, I was now working slower than ever before, and governed by the amount of film that I was able to carry and the methods involved in large-format work. Why after moving to a large-format camera would I ever consider trading some of the quality of the image to get a slightly faster shutter speed? Furthermore I consider pressing the trigger of a large-format camera to be the least exciting part of the entire process. I took a friend of mine out for a few hours when I first got my Walker camera to show and, hopefully, impress him with the art and fascination of large-format photography. It was at the very stage during the proceedings, when I pressed the cable release, that he said, "All that palaver for that little 'click'?"! So this summed up for me the need to get everything out of the camera that I can and if it is too windy I will probably wait for calmer weather or go back on a better day.

I bought a couple of boxes of Ilford Delta 100 sheet film and fumbled in the darkroom with one 'sacrificed' sheet until I had the loading and unloading off to a fine art. Now all I had to do was make this fine art process extend beyond the darkroom and into the field and produce some fine, arty prints - which was the intention after all.


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last update 18/07/2022 16:31:45

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:45 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022